The lively fastball fired in at 95 mph but off the plate. Blake Tekotte did not swing.

Then Tekotte took a strike. He’s learned enough to be patient. If Tekotte is to get back to the major leagues, he’s knows what he must do.

“I’m trying to get my pitch to hit,” Tekotte said.

Then came the change-up that stayed up. Tekotte pounced and drilled a line drive over the center fielder’s head for a triple in the second inning of the Portland Sea Dogs’ game Friday night.

Tekotte did the same thing in the fourth, watching three pitches, falling behind 1-2, then lining a drive to the right-center gap for an RBI double.

Tekotte is 27, a solid center fielder, and off to a hot start in Portland – his first time in Double-A baseball since 2011.

So what is he doing here?

The answer is simple: working and waiting for another crack at the big leagues.

Tekotte used to be one of those ranked prospects that minor league followers focus on. He was a third-round draft pick by the San Diego Padres in 2008 out of the University of Miami, where he batted .353 as a junior (with a 1.058 OPS).

As a pro, he broke out early in the 2011 season at Double-A San Antonio, prompting an unexpected call on May 22. The Padres wanted him in San Diego.

“It was two days before my 24th birthday,” Tekotte said. “It came out of nowhere. I wasn’t in big league camp that year.

“But I got a good start to the season. They were struggling in San Diego and were looking for a spark plug.”

“We were playing against my St. Louis Cardinals, so it was pretty cool.”

Tekotte, from Columbia, Missouri, got one at-bat against the Cardinals, pinch hitting against Chris Carpenter and lining out to deep right field.

He got his first start May 28 in Washington. In his first at-bat, Tekotte doubled off Jordan Zimmerman, again to deep right. He finished the day 2 for 3, adding a triple and a walk.

Reaching the major leagues and contributing, Tekotte felt like he belonged.

“Being up there was like ‘ah man, I made it. All this work has paid off.’ You don’t want to go up there and stop,” Tekotte said. “You want to keep on going.”

But few players stay after their first call-up. Tekotte got one hit in his next seven games and was shipped back to Double-A on June 5.

“Being sent back down to the minor leagues just makes you that much more hungry,” Tekotte said.

He received one more call-up in August that year. In 2012 he got two more short stints with the Padres.

In all, he played 30 major league games in two seasons with San Diego (.163 average).

San Diego traded him to the White Sox, and 2013 was more of the same for Tekotte – three brief call-ups to Chicago (20 games, batting .226).

“It’s easier to make it to the big leagues than it is to stay in the big leagues,” Tekotte said. “You push harder. You’ll do whatever it takes.”

He played all of 2014 in Triple-A, first with the White Sox and then, after an August trade, with the Diamondbacks.

A minor league free agent after 2014, Tekotte looked for a team and talked to Red Sox scout and coach Laz Gutierrez, a former University of Miami pitcher. Boston made an offer.

“A good athlete,” said the Red Sox director of player development, Ben Crockett. “He performed well in the past and we had good reports on his character and his make-up.

“Coming in, he knew he was competing for a job, and he had a great spring training.”

Tekotte got into 13 major league spring training games and hit .400 (6 for 15) with a .937 OPS.

Impressive numbers, but Boston’s outfield depth left no room for Tekotte in Boston or Triple-A Pawtucket.

So he landed in Portland.

“They wanted me to play every day. For that to happen, it was to come down here,” Tekotte said.

“Some might look at it as a demotion. I’m just honored to have the opportunity to play every day. I have to go back to Double-A and do it all over again. No one is going to give me sympathy for that. I’ve got to have the right attitude, and go out and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Through 14 games, Tekotte is batting .304/.819 OPS, with two stolen bases. He will just keep grinding.

His “young prospect” days are over. Now he is someone who has big-league experience.

“I’m lucky enough to have that opportunity to know what’s like,” Tekotte said. “I’m trying to get back and stick this time.”